I remember the first time I fell in love with the idea of being the loud-mouthed audience member on a talk show, was while watching Jerry Springer—the early 90s digestible real world issues Jerry Springer, not the attention-whoring, “I’m sleeping with my father’s brother’s uncle” Jerry Springer. There was an instant connection to the sassy Black woman; the powerful Black Queen, who would ask that one question, making the audience erupt in cheers and the guests question their lives, upbringing and ignorant beliefs.
Growing up I wanted to be that woman. As a Black woman living in a climate of extreme racial tension, who would whip out her breast, anytime and anywhere, to feed her toddler, I was eagerly waiting for someone to bring me any form of oppressive talk, so I could say the things I imagined my sassy alter ego would say.
Then I met him, the worst kind of racist. Harsh term aside, this kind of racist believes Trump is a bigot, understanding the detrimental effect if he were to take office as President of the United States of America. This kind of racist believes that there is equality in the Great White North, simply because it’s not America. They also believe that no one experiences oppression in 2016, other than the “Native Americans that don’t have drinking water,” and Irish uncles in the 60s, whose ethnicity earned him a broken nose and hip one night in Christie Pitts Park.
I had the dissatisfaction of meeting this man at the doctor’s office. He was talking to his teen-aged daughter about politics, privilege and being a white man in Canada—the land of freedom where there is no such thing as privilege. His daughter passionately shared her opinion on the oppression she feels and the destructive results of affirmative action because it prevents her, a bright white woman, from getting a job or a spot in a higher educational institution. I kid you not. I tried to hold my tongue, I really did; I even contemplated getting up from my seat, right behind him, to protect my sanity from the pollution that was tumbling out of their mouths in well-formed sentences and white people chuckles. Until he said, “there are no oppressed races in Canada.”
I saw red. I also saw Black and Brown, since the waiting room was filled with the visible minorities he was loudly packing into suitcases and throwing into closets filled with truth meant to be shoved away, out of sight, out of mind. I saw these wide eyes look at me with the weariness of overhearing one too many irresponsible conversations.
Internally I felt my sassy Black woman step to the microphone: “What experience do you have as a white male in Canada to determine the oppression status of other peoples?” That is what I wished I had the calmness to ask. “Excuse me. You don’t have the life experience to make that statement,” is what I really said. Verbal chaos ensued. A nurse came over to quiet us, and through the raised voices he murmured, “Go back to where you came from.” My sass had had enough. “GO BACK TO WHERE?!” I was all in at this point.
Harsh term intended: the worst kind of racists are the men and women that bump into us every day pushing us off the sidewalk and into the gutter of the oppression Olympics, while simultaneously telling us that oppression is a reality of the past, especially here in Canada. They speak of privilege and superiority from the lens of their cultural understandings, utering the narratives of peoples of colour while engaging in newsfeed regurgitation: “You want to be oppressed? Go to Saudi Arabia where women can’t drive or aren’t allowed to even be seen.” Insert white people chuckle here.
Oppression: A system that allows those in perceived power to control those perceived as less powerful in cruel and unfair ways. What people like this misguided man and his daughter fail and often refuse to understand is this: oppression is not like the consistent recipe of sweet bread slathered with butter, it is not a one size fits all, one size fits most is a considerable stretch. Everyone experiences the evil that is an oppressive system differently, as oppression takes on many forms, just pick the shoe that fits best: Racism, sexism, ageism, sizeism, and ableism, toss in medical and educational oppression for good measure.
The experience that I will have as a Black woman, wannabe #Beckywiththebadgrades will never experience. My condolences to this man’s uncle who was beaten up for being Irish in the 60s. My condolences to every Black man who gets his information written down on a card to be brought up every time their driving looks suspicious because they match some form of general description: Black man, blue hat, white sneakers. My condolences to every heavily accented immigrant who is mocked because of linguistic flourish. My condolences to every child being failed by a system that was erected to protect them. My condolences to every person erased when they are silenced and told their life experiences are not worthy of recognition.
Can a White person experience oppression? Of course. Don’t for a second think that an oppressive system won’t sacrifice a few of their own on the power hierarchy to fulfill and satisfy the, “not all white people” narrative.
It’s become too easy to insert voices where it is not wanted, and dare I say, where it does not matter. To speak irresponsibly on opinions founded in ignorance and not on truth has become the default mode of communication. People who hate you no longer need to light a cross on your lawn while wearing their special occasion white sheet complete with eye holes.
People who hate you are present in your everyday existence, harbouring the violently out-dated opinion that systemic and systematic racism, based on the construct of colour, does not exist. And because of that, everyone has the same opportunities in life, and only the lazy, undeserving, and poor are not worthy to survive.
When we see these people, when we hear them and experience them, I pray we will continue to bravely challenge the status quo, channel your sassy Black Humanity and speak out.
Lamoi is a published poet, spoken word artist, and writer. This Black Bohemian believes that everything in life stems from love for self, and love for The Creator. Her mission is to spread her philosophy to all brave enough to embrace. You can find Lamoi on twitter: @LaLaArdor, and at www.therestivebohemian.com where she blogs life, relationships, single motherhood and faith.